Historic Yellowstone Flood

Historic Yellowstone Flood
Flooding in Yellowstone National Park

You have probably heard about the historic Yellowstone flood that closed Yellowstone National Park earlier in June of 2022. On top of heavy rains, warm temperatures caused massive snow melt. The result was that Yellowstone River and its tributaries overflowed their banks, washed out roads in the park, and washed away buildings in the area. Thousands of people had to be evacuated from the park, and it was closed. The northern part of the park suffered the worst damage and is still closed at this time.

The Yellowstone River is the longest free-flowing river in the lower 48 United States. It flows for almost 700 miles without any dams to hold it back. Humans see this flooding as a disaster that will take years and millions of dollars to correct. However, from the standpoint of trees and animals, the flooding is a blessing. Cottonwood and willow trees along the river were declining. They serve to provide shade and shelter for bison, gray wolves, and grizzly bears. The flooding provided new moist soil and carried seeds, allowing new trees to sprout and grow.

When rivers don’t have an opportunity to overflow their banks, erosion deepens the channels, invasive plant species grow along the banks, and the floodplain wetlands dry up. When rivers run wild and overflow their banks, the surrounding wetlands store water and provide habitats for many birds and mammals. In addition, a raging river spreads new soil across the floodplain, reshaping and renewing the land. Scott Bosse, the director of American River’s Northern Rockies office, said, “As humans, we often think that floods are disastrous, and fires are disastrous, but they’re really only disastrous because we put human lives and property in harm’s way. They’re not disastrous from an ecological standpoint. Quite the contrary, they’re healthy for rivers, and especially for a river like the Yellowstone.”

This historic Yellowstone flood is not all bad. As far as the animals are concerned, they are probably relieved to have fewer humans around. The native cutthroat trout in the Yellowstone river can find new access to tributaries to spawn. At the same time, the introduced rainbow trout have had their eggs and fry washed away by the raging waters. The scouring of the river washed up a supply of invertebrates to provide meals for fish and birds. Ospreys, eagles, American dippers, and river otters benefit from a new food supply.

Meanwhile, the historic Yellowstone flood allows cottonwood and willow trees to release their seeds into the wet sandy soil to germinate. Cottonwoods are the dominant trees along the Yellowstone River, and the new trees will benefit breeding birds in the future. Because of the added soil moisture, the flood waters also benefit the grazing animals by giving them more plants to graze on.

Floods can benefit the ecosystem, but humans often build roads, homes, and other structures in floodplains. Or they build homes downstream from dams that have the potential to break and cause a worse flood. God gave us the responsibility to care for the Earth. To do that, we must first respect it and understand how natural systems work. In the long term, the Yellowstone River ecosystem and its tributaries benefit from the historic Yellowstone flood.

— Roland Earnst © 2022

Reference: National Geographic “Historic Yellowstone Flooding Brings Renewal Despite Destruction” by S.J. Keller

Activities and Science Experiments for Children

Activities and Science Experiments for Children

Several years ago, we produced some materials called “God Made It All Perfect,” suggesting various activities and science experiments for children at home or in a children’s class or worship hour. Jean Wiebe and Patty Parker wrote the material which focuses on seeing God’s wisdom and design in the natural world. We have it available free if you will pay the postage to mail it to you. If you are interested, email us at jncdge@aol.com or call 574-514-1400.

The Focus on the Family organization has produced some children’s activity materials with good scientific lessons that can be done at home. The series features “Dr. Fizzlebop” and is a part of the Focus on the Family Clubhouse program. In addition, the June/July issue of Focus on the Family (pages 38-45) has a series of experiments and explanations that just about any parent or grandparent can use with children. You can also use them in a VBS or children’s class.

Focus on the Family has released a book titled “Faith and Science With Dr. Fizzlebop.” You can find activities and science experiments for children in FAITH AND SCIENCE WITH DR. FIZZLEBOP. You can find more projects to do with your children in the Focus on the Family magazines CLUBHOUSE and CLUBHOUSE JR.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Virus-Carrying Animals and Pandemics

Virus-Carrying Animals - Whitetail Deer Fawn
Whitetail Deer Fawn

When you read the hygienic rules for the nation of Israel in the Bible, you might think they are restrictive and unnecessary. However, we now understand that some 60% of known infectious diseases in humans came from animals, and over 250 known diseases have come directly to humans from virus-carrying animals.

We also know that 850,000 viruses exist within the bodies of mammals and birds, and 10% of rodent species host pathogens that can infect people. Seventy-seven known viruses can come from primates to humans, and bats are well-equipped to carry viruses to humans. For example, the SARS-CoV-2 virus in bats probably initiated the COVID virus in humans.

We are seeing significant increases in diseases carried by animals
and spread by mosquitos, ticks, and a variety of parasites. The Lyme disease incidence rate has doubled in the past ten years, and scientists have identified two new tick-carried diseases. Dengue fever has increased 30-fold in recent years. In addition, researchers have identified white-tailed deer as carriers of the Omicron variant of the COVID virus.

God gave ancient Israel restrictions and rules of contact with animals that reduced the probability of transmitting diseases to humans from virus-carrying animals. Likewise, we need to reduce the use of animals as pets and educate hunters and farmers about how to care for animals we use for food. In addition, avoiding extensive contact with animals by leaving them in their natural habitat and not raising animals that may carry harmful viruses can help protect us from diseases.

Massive vaccination is never going to eradicate the agents of pandemics. However, careful understanding of the creation’s design and maintaining separation between humans and virus-carrying animals can make a huge difference.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: The Week for July 1, 2022 page 11.

Carson v Makin Discrimination Case

Public Private Religious Schools - Carson v. Makin Discrimination Case

On June 21, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a rare decision supporting Christian institutions. The case was Carson v Makin, in which the court decided that the state of Maine could not discriminate against schools with a religious affiliation. Maine had a tuition aid program for nonsectarian private schools but barred faith-based schools. The Supreme Court invalidated that rule saying, “The State pays tuition for certain students at private schools – so long as the schools are not religious. That is discrimination against religion.” This decision overturned a 2019 ruling by the U.S. District Court of Maine.

This is a complicated issue. As a retired public school teacher, I know the problems created when tax money is divided, so public schools get less funding. The point is not whether tax money should go to private schools but whether, if money is taken away from the public schools, who should get it. Parents who don’t want their kids in public schools desire the option of having their tax money go to a school of their choice.

The problem is that public schools get poorer, and teacher quality goes down. Years ago, I gave a lectureship in a public school that competed with several private schools. The public school was a mess. The restrooms hadn’t been cleaned in several weeks, there were rats in the building, and the furniture was in disrepair. The students in that school were from low-income families. The more affluent families sent their kids to private schools with better funding, a superior environment, and better teachers. The private schools expelled the kids with discipline problems, sending them to the public schools.

The Carson v Makin ruling is a victory for church-affiliated schools, but the problem for public education continues. The Supreme Court’s decision is not over how to manage education but how to eliminate discrimination against Christianity.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: drjamesdobson.org

Evolution Has Multiple Meanings

Evolution Has Multiple Meanings

Yesterday, I mentioned that I sometimes get people to think by saying that I believe in evolution. For some, the word only brings to mind the concept of “man from monkey.” However, evolution has multiple meanings. We looked at three of them yesterday, and none of the definitions say anything about the existence of God. So here are two more evolution concepts.

#4. MICROEVOLUTIONARY CHANGE. These are changes in a biological population over time, usually in response to environmental factors. We see this in viruses evolving to become resistant to drugs. Humans have created new breeds of dogs and cattle through microevolution. In the Bible, Jacob used microevolution in dealing with Laban’s flocks. (See Genesis 30:31-42.) Microevolution, change within a species, is the basis of modern agriculture.

#5. MACROEVOLUTION. This is a process of change from common descent. The key word is “process” and describes how, over time, it can lead to a new species. In microbiology, a microbe may get its DNA mixed up with the DNA of another microbe and produce a new species. Farmers in California can tell you about insects that evolved with the ability to cause damage to crops. Some plants have changed to the point where they are no longer fertile with the original plant from which they came. Fish have also speciated.

Is macroevolution a tool God uses to produce the massive numbers of new species in the world today? To suggest that macroevolution happens only by chance requires more faith than believing that God built a system allowing new plants and animals to exist on a changing Earth.

So, we see that evolution has multiple meanings. But, no matter what definition we use, it simply describes how God has operated and continues to operate. So, when I say that I believe in evolution, you must know what I mean by that. As we noted yesterday, everyone believes in some form of evolution, but that does not disprove God’s existence.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

I Believe in Evolution

I Believe in Evolution

I have, on occasion, made the statement that I believe in evolution. My purpose for saying that is to get people to think. What does “evolution” mean? For many people, the statement means “man from monkey,” and that is as far as they go. There are at least five ways in which people use the word” evolution.” None of them have anything to do with the existence of God. Think about the ways people use the word “evolution.”

#1. ANY CHANGE OVER TIME. We talk about stars evolving from blue hot stars to red dwarfs. We speak about an athletic program evolving. This is simply change over time and has no relevance to our faith.

#2. CULTURAL EVOLUTION. A cultural group may change radically over time due to many things. America has evolved from a country made mostly of immigrants to a country made of people born in this country. Our nation has evolved, and even our vocabulary recognizes this. When I was a kid, America was perceived as a “melting pot” where we could all be one and leave our ethnicity behind. That has evolved into a pluralistic society where people determine their ancestry and try to retain it. That evolution has brought enormous political implications,

#3. PROGRESSIVE EVOLUTIONARY REVELATION. Our understanding of the atom has evolved in my lifetime. My chemistry class in high school and college taught me that the atom had a nucleus with electrons orbiting it in concentric circles around that core. Now, when I teach chemistry, I talk about orbitals and electrons moving in figure eights and cloverleaf patterns in various numbers. Knowledge can change understanding, and that is evolutionary revelation. The Bible uses evolutionary revelation, with the Old Testament introducing the nature and operation of God and progressively revealing the nature of Jesus Christ and the future of believers.

So, when I say that I believe in evolution, you must know what I mean by that. If anyone says they do or don’t believe in evolution, ask them to define what they mean by “evolution.” The truth is that everyone believes in some form of evolution. Tomorrow, we will look at the two remaining primary uses of the word.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

The Gay Lifestyle and Monkeypox

The Gay Lifestyle and Monkeypox

Skeptics often say that the Bible is loaded with racial, homophobic, and judgmental condemnations, but these assertions are invalid. Jesus and the apostles were totally opposed to racial prejudice. Jesus demonstrated that in John 4 when he spoke with the Samaritan woman. Paul makes it clear in Galatians 3:26-29 that Christianity has no room for racial prejudice. The gay lifestyle is another issue.

You can’t read the words of Jesus in Matthew 5 -7 and not see that He taught against any violence or malice toward those who reject God and the biblical admonitions on how we should live. By the same token, you can’t read Romans 1:18-32 and not see a rejection of the destructive, immoral behaviors that people practiced. It is true that LGBTQ and gay lifestyle choices are harmful, and one of the consequences of those lifestyles is a vast number of diseases.

In the past, we have seen HIV transmitted from animals to humans
by animal/human sexual relationships and then spread by gay lifestyle sexual practices. Now we are witnessing monkeypox cases on the rise. This is a DNA virus related to smallpox discovered in monkeys in 1958, with the first known human case in 1970. Medical researchers are now seeing cases in the western world, including the United States.

The Centers for Disease Control, on May 23, 2022, revealed that most of the cases in the U.S. have been in men who identified themselves as gay or bisexual. In Spain, the cases have been linked to a Pride celebration and in Belgium to a fetish celebration.

The virus does not spread easily but can be spread by skin-to-skin sexual contact. People with the virus may only have lesions in their mouth and throat, which transmit the virus from person to person during sexual relationships. Although not actually an STD, monkeypox is connected to sexual relationships. This shows again that God’s plan for marriage and sexual relationships is the best way to avoid the virus.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: Science News, June 18, 2022, pages 6 – 7.

Twigs Randomly Thrown Together?

Twigs Randomly Thrown Together? - Bird Nests

You may look at a bird’s nest and assume that it is just a pile of twigs randomly thrown together. However, physicist Hunter King of the University of Akron says birds use the twigs in a way that is “totally mystifying.”

Dr. King has done an interesting experiment with the design of bird nests. He took a piston and compressed 460 bamboo rods arranged inside a cylinder in a form similar to the construction of an ordinary bird nest. As the piston applied more force, the sticks slid against each other, rearranging the contact points. As a result, the rods acted as a group and became stiffer and more resistant to deforming.

The new contact points stiffened the “nest,” preventing the twigs from further flexing. King says the fact that birds seem to have a sense of how individual twigs will make a nest with the right characteristics is “something we don’t know the first thing about predicting.”

So a bird’s nest is more than twigs randomly thrown together. Birds construct them to protect what they value—eggs and chicks. From an engineering standpoint, this research will allow scientists to create new structures designed to protect things that humans value. From an apologetic perspective, this is one more example of the design built into the DNA of living things to allow them to survive in the natural world.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

References: Science News for June 18, 2022 page 5, and Physical Review Letters

The Salt Has Lost Its Savor

The Salt Has Lost Its Savor - Dead Sea Salt Formations
Dead Sea Salt Formations

An atheist recently attacked the credibility of the Bible by quoting Matthew 5:13: “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has lost its savor, how shall it be seasoned? It is good for nothing but to be cast out and trodden underfoot.” The atheist complained that Jesus was incredibly ignorant because salt can’t lose its “savor” no matter what happens to it. Reading the whole verse and understanding something about salt makes this attack an excellent example of ignorance about science and faith.

Today we get salt from well over 90% pure salt deposits. Halite (sodium chloride) is the mineral name, and the city of Detroit, for example, is built over a salt deposit that is, in fact, some 99% pure halite. That is true in many other places, but not in the Dead Sea, where the salt came from in Jesus’ time. Dead Sea salt is a mixture of the minerals halite (table salt), gypsum (calcium sulfate used in drywall), and other minerals. The halite part of Dead Sea salt was used for seasoning food or preserving meat, but the gypsum was used for footpaths. This is what Jesus referred to when He said, “the salt has lost its savor,” and His listeners would have understood that.

The lesson here is that you can’t read the Bible in 2022 and understand what was written some 2000 years ago unless you investigate what life was like back then. It is essential to understand that the biblical account is not about Americans living in modern times. People have not changed spiritually, but society and customs have made enormous changes. Add to that the fact that the original biblical manuscripts were not written in English, and Bible translators may not understand the culture in which they were written. Even languages have changed over the years, which is a problem with the King James translation.

For non-scholars, it is essential to be critical of Bible critics and Bible translations. Was the version you use translated by people who knew the culture and conditions while avoiding their own biases? God has provided us with tools through honest scholars that help us find answers to complex Bible issues. Nevertheless, we still need to apply the principle, “Study to show yourselves workmen who do not need to be ashamed rightly dividing the Word of Truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Whale and Krill Ecology in the Ocean

Whale and Krill Ecology in the Ocean
Antarctic Humpback Whale Feeding on Krill and a Closeup of the Tiny Creature

Now that people are harvesting krill from the ocean for human consumption, ecologists are concerned that we are competing with the whales that eat massive amounts of krill. For example, a blue whale will consume 35,000 pounds of krill in a day, and that would feed a lot of humans. This development requires a better understanding of whale and krill ecology and its effect on other ocean creatures.

Recent studies by Stanford University ecologists have shown that the oceans’ ecosystems are far more complex than we previously understood. For example, the whale consumption of krill is a significant part of the open ocean ecology. Krill contain large amounts of iron. When whales eat the krill, they defecate the iron back into the ocean, releasing it for other life forms.

Phytoplankton must have iron to survive, and they would die without the whales eating the krill. In turn, phytoplankton are critical to many other living things in the ocean, including the krill. For that reason, researchers concluded that more krill existed in the Antarctic Ocean before whaling killed 1.5 million baleen whales between 1910 and 1970. Whales are not just massive food consumers but also a significant factor in preserving life in the sea.

Feeding the human population requires an understanding that every creature has a role in the creation. As we understand whale and krill ecology, we see the delicate balance in the natural world. That evidence of God’s design work reminds us of the importance of biblically-based stewardship of the creation. That biblical perspective is vital to good science and applying science to solve human problems. It’s another example of the compatibility of science and faith. They are friends, not enemies, and must work together to benefit us all.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: National Wildlife magazine, June-July 2022, page 10 and Stanford.edu